While You Were Offline: When Donald Met Jack
It’s been a strange seven days in which serious world-shaking news events appeared to take a break, perhaps because they already knew that people were going to be too obsessed with Avengers: Endgame—even Google got in on the act—and the latest release from Taylor Swift to concentrate on anything too weighty. And don't get me started on what's going on in Game of Thrones. Have we finally reached a point where pop culture is making the world a better place—or, at least, less openly terrifying and depressing? Don't be silly, because it only takes a brief second to read below and see the truth. But at least when it comes to the Avengers, the good guys can win in the end. Kind of. (This spoils nothing.) Here's what's been going on in the wild, wooly world of the web over the past week.
What Happened: One of the requirements to be nominated to the Federal Reserve Board by President Trump would seem to be very poor judgment, going by what happened to his two nominees last week.
What Really Happened: It was a rough week for presidential nominees for the Federal Reserve Board.
Yes, Herman Cain pulled himself out of contention for the Federal Reserve seat after much commentary from many people. But what made Cain—someone who ran against Trump to be the Republican candidate for president—withdraw? It depends on who you ask.
And there's always this option, as well …
Whatever the reality of the situation is, let's just say that no one really seems to be upset about the way things went down.
Still, even with Cain removing himself from the running, at least President Trump had another Fed nominee to consider. It's not as if anything controversial happened with Stephen Moore last week, right?
Turns out, pretty bad.
Surely there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for these comments beyond Moore being a sexist crank, right?
Oh, maybe not.
The Takeaway: So, will Moore become the second Trump nominee for the Federal Reserve Board to withdraw in a week? As of this writing, it hasn't happened yet, but … it looks like it probably will.
What Happened: What happens when a Trump administration official just comes out and agrees that he's friends with a pretty bad guy and just wishes that he was a little less murder-y? Maybe the best anyone can hope for is some razzing from the stage.
What Really Happened: Jared Kushner remains a curious figure in the White House. Officially, he's a senior adviser to the president, a title that is at best somewhat unclear and seems to cover whatever topic he wants it to, from immigration issues to bringing peace to the Middle East. Perhaps this broad remit is one of the perks of being President Trump's son-in-law, just like being given high-level security clearance even when security officials explicitly warn against it. If nothing else, he's someone with an interesting backstory. No wonder, then, that Time chose him as someone to interview as part of its Time 100 Summit last week; if this man isn't one of the 100 most important people in the world right now, who is, right?
Before Kushner's appearance, many people had one subject in particular that they wanted him to address.
The murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi security forces in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year remains, tragically, an open question in a lot of ways, not least of all because, despite acknowledging his death, Saudi authorities changed their version of events as to what actually happened multiple times, while President Trump openly disputed US intelligence findings and backed the Saudi regime's shifting take on what was happening—something that was, according to multiple reports, possibly tied to Kushner's relationships with the Saudi government.
To the surprise of, well, almost everyone, Kushner did address the topic—and what he said was genuinely eye-opening in its apparent honesty.
For those wondering just what that exchange actually means, well, there's this.
Oh, and this.
Kushner's response certainly generated plenty of headlines, but as to any long term or even meaningful repercussions, those don't seem to be coming. Especially considering that people seem to think that this is more than enough accountability.
Spoilers: When it comes to holding someone responsible for abetting murder, we can probably do better than a comedian calling them out onstage. Maybe that's just me.
The Takeaway: Then again, maybe a comedian really is the best anyone can hope for.
When Donald Met Jack
What Happened: With all the important matters needing his attention, perhaps it's a good thing that President Trump spent part of last week meeting with the man responsible for his—and everyone's!—favorite social media platform, Twitter.
What Really Happened: Even as his nominees to key posts got beaten up in public, and his senior advisor-in-law reminded everyone that he stans a murderous totalitarian regime, it's worth noting that last week was a pretty mellow one for the president himself. He even had time to sit down with none other than Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey at the White House in the middle of the week, as he eagerly announced on—of course—Twitter:
You have to wonder what the two talked about, don't you?
That's certainly an option, although not everyone was convinced.
So, was the meeting successful? Did both sides come to an understanding of some kind? It would appear so, judging from the other political news story of the week that involved Twitter’s Dorsey and the president.
OK, so apparently there's another area where the president just gets to do whatever he wants and people will happily explain why the rules just don't matter for him. Cool.
The Takeaway: As strange as this whole situation may be, at least everyone can all enjoy the historical precedent for it.
What Happened: When is a ransom not a ransom? Last week's news offered two potential answers: When it's dressed up as medical expenses, and when it goes unpaid. The US might not negotiate with terrorists, but it's not above accepting a bill or two, it seems.
What Really Happened: The death of Otto Warmbier, an American student who died after being imprisoned and tortured by North Korea, has long been a controversial topic in American politics, thanks to the surreal fact that President Trump defended North Korean leader Kim Jong–un on the topic, saying that the despot "tells me he didn't know about it, and I take him at his word." A surprise report on Thursday suggested that the reality may have been something far more disturbing.
Because, of course, you knew this was going to happen, there was a Trump statement in which he pre-criticized his own alleged behavior.
Further reporting only deepened the story, because it turns out that, while Trump apparently approved the payment, North Korea might never have actually received the money itself.
Insert a joke about the president finding all new people to fail to pay promised funds here, I guess. For what little it's worth, considering his impressive history of not actually telling the truth, the president took to Twitter on Friday morning to deny the reports altogether.
There is, of course, a strange historical precedent for choosing not to believe Trump on this matter.
The Takeaway: That all of this was happening as North Korea was meeting with Russia was just a very strange, very unfortunate coincidence. But, uh, are we making American great again with this story?
What Happened: Because there weren't enough people in contention for the Democratic presidential nomination, Joe Biden ended months of impatient waiting by finally confirming that, yes, he's in the race for sure.
What Really Happened: If something could be accurately described as the very opposite of a surprise, it would be the fact that former Vice President Joe Biden has decided to enter the 2020 presidential race. The announcement, which had been expected for at least the last couple of weeks (also since 2015 or so) finally came on Thursday morning.
Curiously, Biden himself might have asked Obama to hold back, if the spin is to be believed. Meanwhile, another president was happy to discuss Biden's entry.
This was somewhat fitting, considering that Biden's announcement video was slightly focused on the current incumbent in the White House and curiously reminiscent of him, too, according to some. But not everyone was convinced.
Amongst those not convinced, a familiar name from American political history, who spoke out after the announcement was made.
On the less important end of the spectrum, others were also unconvinced by Biden's graphic design.
The Takeaway: Say what you will about Biden, he's out there aggressively making the case for himself, the way a true leader does.